August 2021

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,

to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

Wildfires, smoky skies, record breaking hot temperatures, the new delta variant of the Covid-19 virus, 15,000+ Afghan allies left behind as US troops depart, a drought that is engulfing much of the western half of our country, and closer to home, the death of loved ones, the long good-bye brought on by dementia, the increased polarization of our society, and the list goes on, of things we have no control over.

We are bombarded every day with news and information that leave us feeling helpless and hopeless. We take in hours of screen time and pages of information on things we can do nothing about. “Learned helplessness” is the term that psychologists use to describe what happens to us after years of exposure to all this bad news. On a subconscious level we reason: since I can’t stop the war in Yemen or reverse sea level rise, then there is nothing I can do about anything.

Of course, when you stop and think about it, you realize that is not true. There is a lot you can do about a lot of things in life. We are not helpless victims of life. It is indeed true that you cannot stop the war in Yemen or reverse sea level rise, but that does not mean that there is nothing we can do about anything.

You and I have the power to make ours and others lives better, or worse for that matter. The ones closest to us, the ones we interact with each day are affected by us in ways we may not even be aware of. To combat “learned helplessness” pay attention to the things you can change, like your diet, your exercise routine, your tone of voice, your attitude.

And remember the power you have to connect with others, with neighbors, family, friends and complete strangers. Just starting a conversation can change your day, or theirs. And, yes, you cannot stop wildfires, but you can prepare to evacuate your home, you can prepare a “grab and go” bag or bin. You can’t stop loved ones from dying but you can grieve, you can mark the occasion of their death.

You are not helpless. There is always something you have the power to affect even if it is only your response to what is happening to you.

And finally pay attention to matters of your soul. Learned helplessness can only control you when you forget who is really in control. Every day you pray, you remember. That is what sabbath rest is for. It is to remember who you are and whose you are. And be thankful. Gratitude is the container that receives the grace of God.

God’s peace to you,

Pr. Bob

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